Hops A-Z: D is for Dwarf

Perhaps the future of hop production is dwarfish. The last ten years has seen a great deal of research both in the US and the UK into the cultivation of dwarf hops. With cones growing down to ground level on a low trellis, these varieties can be mechanically harvested direct from the field. They are proving to be hardier and more resistant to pests. And, in the UK, they can offer greater bittering potential compared to our traditional hop crops.

One of the first UK commerical varieties, First Gold, has acheived some success, notably through single hopped beers by the likes of Badger and Acorn. Like a spicier version of Goldings, it's able to offer orange and peach flavours alongside robust bitterness.

Although the UK Government pulled funding into commissioned research concerning sustainable dwarf hop production, the National Hop Association (NHA) has maintained the momentum. With funding from the Society of Independent Brewers, the NHA have developed a new dwarf hop aimed at offering UK brewers a domestic alternative to foreign bittering hops.

The United States have been at the forefront of dwarf hop development. Summit, the first commercial dwarf produced by the American Dwarf Hop Association, is a high-alpha dwarf with flavouring and bittering that suits the popular double/imperial IPA styles. Although the US doesn't struggle in terms of hop production, development of varieties such as Summit can be seen as their way of maintaining market presence, especially with China becoming the third largest hop grower in the world.

There's potential with dwarf varieties for a radical shake-up of hop agriculture. If it offers more home-grown varities with greater yield potential - and potentially a crop that even a homebrewer could attempt to cultivate in their garden - the gardens of England could take on a new hue in the near future.